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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    New London ‘turned up’ for annual St. Patrick’s Day parade

    Ronin Foster, left, and Owen Egan, both 8 and of Canterbury, ride on top of a car with the New London County Jeep Club in the New London St. Patrick’s Day parade Sunday, March 17, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Students from the Gray School of Irish Dance dance in the New London St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 17, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    The New London Firefighters Pipes and Drums march past the crowds on Broadway in the Norwich Saint Patrick’s Parade & Festival Sunday, March 3, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Visitors watch the New London St. Patrick’s Day Parade from along Bank Street on Sunday, March 17, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Members of Bennie Dover Jackson Multi-Magnet Middle School play in the marching band in the New London St. Patrick’s Day Parade Sunday, March 17, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    New London ― Clare DePeter Powers, the grand marshal in Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, had been given some simple words of advice from her father, Fran DePeter, who was a grand marshal seven years ago.

    “He said just have fun,” she said. “It’s a great honor. Have a good time.”

    On Sunday, as DePeter Powers marched with members of the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic fraternal organization of which her father used to be president, she had clearly taken his advice. She smiled and waved at a crowd of at least a thousand people at the parade.

    Just after 1 p.m., the parade groups started to march down Bank Street, led by New London police and followed shortly thereafter by the New London Firefighters Pipes and Drums.

    The many New London groups who participated in the parade, including the city’s youth affairs, adult and continuing education and high school marching band gave DePeter Powers reason to smile, too. As she stood at the parade’s end on Washington Street afterward, the 40-year New London resident said she had been especially proud to see that “more of the in-town organizations had a great showing this year.”

    Fran DePeter, also a member of the committee that organizes the parade, said the event is a great opportunity to show civic pride and attract people to the city.

    Waterford resident Judy Socha, who stood with her family and friends on State Street, said she’s not “one ounce of Irish.” She’s Polish and Portuguese, but it didn’t stop her from donning one of many green hats she owns for her favorite holiday, as she’s done for several years.

    One of the family’s favorite parts of the parade was when a group of men dressed like pirates appeared at the junction of State and Bank Street with a miniature cannon. Some who’d been to the parade before, like Socha, had covered their ears.

    Others were shocked when the men, members of New London-based Ancient Mariners Connecticut, aimed the cannon down State Street and lit a fuse that resulted in an ear-shattering blast. The group, which is a mix of a fife and drum corps and social club, fired it a few more times Sunday.

    “We’re just celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as we do other holidays,” said Rick Klimowicz, a mariner from Southington, who’d laced buckles into his shoes.

    People of all ages clapped and cheered as his group, and others, marched by.

    Klimowicz said while the ancient mariner history does not really intertwine with St. Patrick’s Day, the group fits right in the parade for this city, with it’s rich maritime history and the Coast Guard barque Eagle, a ship, stationed here. The group had just marched in two St. Patrick’s Day parades in West Yarmouth, Mass., and Meriden.

    Ten minutes before the parade, at least 30 participating groups had lined up on Water Street, where 8-year-olds Ronin Foster and Owen Egan, both of Canterbury, stood in the back of a Jeep decorated by green garlands, beads and shamrocks. It was one of 20 others driven by members of the New London County Jeep Club.

    “We go Jeepin’ all the time, in the woods,” said Doug Foster, Ronin’s father.

    But Sunday’s parade saw their muddy Jeeps return to the pavement again, as had the parade two weeks ago in Norwich. Next week, the group will go watch the parade in Mystic.

    “Of course, you’ve gotta wear green and St. Patrick’s Day glasses,” Foster added.

    Kathy Walburn and Pat Connair, two members of the committee that organized the parade, were walking on Bank Street about an hour after the parade had ended at 2 p.m. Walburn said that the City of New London, Downtown New London Association and Barbara Neff of Neff Productions have organized the parade together.

    “I think this was the best one we’ve had,” Connair said, adding this year had better weather and a higher turnout than years past. “It was awesome.”

    “We’re back up to pre-COVID numbers,” added Walburn.

    DePeter Powers agreed.

    “It was a great day,” she said. “New London turned up.”


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